Going round The Rink at Southwark Playhouse
Southwark Playhouse is a real jewel in London’s theatrical crown.
Over the last couple of years I have seen lots of brilliant shows there, from Pippin to Working. But last night I saw one of the best things I have seen, not just at Southwark but anywhere. I was a late replacement to join S at Southwark for a production of The Rink.
It is written by Kander and Ebb, the team behind Chicago, and was tipped by one of S’s friends as “their best musical”. He wasn’t wrong. Musical star Caroline O’Connor, who some may recognise from the film Moulin Rouge, leads an amazing eight strong cast.
Before I get to the absolute brilliance of the show I have to throw a quick mention to Mercato Metropolitano. If you are heading for Southwark and need a place to eat it is perfect. A bustling little market of incredible pop-up food stalls; definitely one for another day.
But back to The Rink. From the very first number I was both gripped and blown away. The basic premise of a mother and daughter reunion at the skating rink the family used to own, in the company of a demolition crew, is not perhaps one which makes you sit straight up. But this is truly wonderful. The songs and performances are just mind-blowing.
Southwark often draws a fairly discerning crowd of theatre fans and last night was no exception. But Caroline O’Connor’s first number blew the crowd away and I have rarely sensed the possibility of a standing ovation just one song in.
From there the show just builds and builds. There are some moments of heart-wrenching pathos as the duo, played by O’Connor and an excellent Gemma Sutton, relive the past which brought them to his point. The other six male members of the cast fill in all the other roles, from the demolition team to the ladies’ respective husbands, lovers, fathers and friends.
Among the group, Stewart Clarke and Ross Dawes are particularly exceptional in their transformations from one to the other. The latter adding to his work as foreman and father-in-law with a cracking turn as an old lady in the community.
But the show’s true standout moment is when they take full advantage of the roller rink setting and engage in a full tap-style dance routine in roller skates. It is the one moment of the show where neither of the female leads is called on to carry the scene and the choreography was superb. Absolutely superb. The prolonged applause which followed it gave the cast a much-needed moment to catch their breath.
This is a great show, full of emotion, excitement and songs which will be stuck in your head for days afterwards. I would heartily suggest that anyone who can find a ticket to this production does so. It runs until next weekend and is sold out online, but if you have a free evening and can beg, borrow or steal* a ticket the please, please do so.
It is a truly brilliant night out.
(Disclaimer: Please don’t steal a ticket.)
I was a good boy during the show and didn’t take any pictures, so – except for the first one – these are all from Southwark Playhouse’s Instagram account. Give them a follow and keep an eye out for their next awesome offerings. The first pic is from my Instagram.